Director & Artist
Body Pos Project Founder Laura Jane interviews Scarlet—aka @scarletinni—about working in film, positive influences and her reaction to the presidential election.
[Editorial note: The Body Pos Project originally interviewed Scarlet in the summer of 2016. We got Scarlet back on the phone to catch up and hear her thoughts on the election results.]
Laura Jane: I was curious how the results of the election resonated with you and how that is impacting your world?
Scarlet: I think that like a lot of women my age on the coasts, I was extremely heart broken when I found out the results of the election. This campaign, more than any in the past, was filled with moments where we saw one of the candidates openly and unabashedly speak about women in a way that was extremely demeaning and extremely sad. Then, when he was caught on tape bragging about assaulting women, I thought that should have been the end, the end of his credibility. And it wasn’t. And that made me feel like this country would elect anyone but a woman. This election was painful for so many reasons. There are so many stances that he took that were extremely toxic and extremely terrible against minorities.
If Hillary was a male, I don’t think Trump would have been able to stay credible in this campaign, saying the things that he said. I really think it came down to a choice between someone with a really bad character who is male and someone who is female. I know that is simplifying it but I think it’s an important simplification to think about. I think that’s why so many women are heart broken. I think it made us realize that we have a long way to go to be accepted and loved and not feared and hated. The thought that I woke up with on Wednesday morning was that America hates women. I know that might be dramatic but that’s what it felt like.
This is an important moment to mobilize. I think that we are about to get a lot of really great art and that we are about to see some really subversive movements. I think if this election is what it takes to bring all of these badass women to the forefront, that will be the silver lining. I think it’s time to rise to the occasion, the occasion of proving that we can beat this, we can overcome.
For me, I am going to make it a point to work with as many women as possible, as many minorities as possible, to put us at the forefront. Even if the ideas that I’m presenting in my work are not explicitly or directly against whatever is going on, they will have that motivation. As soon as I found out that Trump won, I thought, time to write something. It lit a fire under my ass. I think that’s whats happening with a lot of female artists and a lot of female politicians—just women in general. They have been mobilized. They have been changed.
I want to keep that female driven art at the forefront and have an impact in any way I can. Nina Simone once said, "An artist’s duty...is to reflect the times." That encompasses my feeling about this moment in time so perfectly.
LJ: How would you describe what you do?
S: First and foremost, I would call myself an artist. I am a stylist but my main goal is to be an actor full time. I studied acting at Stella Adler for four years. It was really great for me and my confidence and my view of myself.
LJ: Tell me more about what your body positivity journey was like growing up.
S: I think that my journey mirrored that of a lot of women and other young people. Obviously, there was a love/hate relationship with my body when I was much younger. In high school when you’re figuring out what you want to look like and what you’re supposed to look like, navigating a way to feel good about yourself can feel pretty difficult.
In high school, I never felt like one of the hot girls, I felt like my strength was in being cool and being into cool music and being into rock and roll. I found myself in that niche. It was this revelation of, I’m an artist, I don’t have to subscribe to what these traditional beauty standards are. Being into rock and roll and film helped me find a lot of iconic people who didn’t fit that mold. Liking Tarantino films and John Waters movies helped me realize that there was such a thing as being bad-ass and amazing without fitting in.
When I was 17 I had this really layered haircut that I always joke made me look like David Lee Roth. I loved that about myself though and I was kind of proud of it. That definitely helped me. I never felt conventionally that attractive in high school. All of those things, like art, music and film helped me feel unconventionally sexy. I have music and art to thank a lot for feeling good about myself when it could have been harder to do so.
LJ: How does your ethnicity and race impact the way you see your body and move through the world?
S: I wrote and directed my last film about this phenomenon. Being a white-presenting-Hispanic person has its pros and cons. Of course, there is a lot of privilege to it, but there is also some uncomfortable aspects when it comes to expressing my identity truthfully.
Where I grew up in Laredo, Texas, I think according to the census it’s like 97% Hispanic. There, nobody thinks twice about a light skinned person speaking Spanish. There, everyone knows that there are darker skinned, lighter skinned, blonde, and brunette Mexican Americans. When I was 17 and moved to New York City for college, away from home, I had to recognize what it meant to express my identity as Hispanic. Basically, I had to tread lightly. For example, because of the way I look, I would speak Spanish to people who spoke Spanish and sometimes got reactions that were not super positive because they didn’t know that it was my native language. That has been a difficult part of it. I was often invited to Latino specific events at school and when I would show up and didn’t really look the part, I had to explain that I am 1/4 Mexican, I grew up identifying as Hispanic, that Spanish was my first language. It was an interesting experience being confronted with that. I also had this big blonde hair so people were extra confused.
LJ: How would you describe your body image now that you’re working in the entertainment industry?
S: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten much more comfortable with my body and my curves and how that empowers me on and off screen. Obviously, in the acting world there is so much pressure. There is pressure to look good, you’ve got to look the part. I think it is changing a lot—it’s getting better. For me personally, making short films and putting my characters out there and receiving positive feedback has been truly great. It helped me realize that it’s not a big deal that I’m not a size zero. It’s not a big deal that I have a big butt. It doesn’t make me less of a good actress. I just have to show people what I can do. I do think that making my films and putting myself out there has had a great impact on how I view myself.
LJ: How is seeing yourself on screen?
S: Because of the way that I was trained—I had some amazing, amazing teachers and I think they allowed for us to explore what we look like as people and how that would affect who we are as actors—but when I was in character, I didn’t feel like Scarlet anymore. I had become the character. So looking at myself on screen, I think, "That’s her, that’s not me." Which in this context is a great thing for me because it removes that sort of self-consciousness a bit. Of course, there is still a level of fear and self-consciousness but I never look at that character and think, "That’s Scarlet." This makes it a lot easier to see myself onscreen. I have also incorporated a ton of stylistic elements into the short films that I’ve done. So with that comes a level of comfort too. A layer of something to protect you. There is definitely a level of comfort that comes from being in costume. I think that’s why we all wear costumes sometimes.
LJ: How has social media played a part in the way you relate to your body?
S: When I saw Abbie Fowler on Instagram, I remember thinking, On My God, wow. I definitely want to be like that. She is so sexy, but gives zero fucks. These women, they are themselves 100% and don’t adhere to any fucking rules. That is a goddess to me—that is my favorite type of woman. Abbie Fowler and Jarae Holieway are super inspiring in that kind of way. Abbie Fowler is very unafraid and very confident. Women like that, seeing that—their Instagrams—they’ve helped me to feel more beautiful and more at home in my body. It’s kind of amazing that a community, that an online community, can do that. They’ve conveyed something that I want to convey and if they can do it, why shouldn’t I do it?
An individual doesn’t always know that they are portraying something positive to someone else. I don’t know if the purpose that Jarae Holieway started with was to inspire, but she has. I think she’s just being who she is and she’s so inspiring.
None of us are created the same, we don’t look the same. So why compare? Fucking rock it. We’re all individuals, we’re all scientifically literal different beings. So I think that makes us our perfect selves. When you own your perfect self, you’ve reached that sort of goddess status, that nirvana.
The older I get, the more I feel like I can. I definitely feel like I have a little ways to go for sure, the journey of body positivity is a long one and comes with ups and downs. I’m being what I’m meant to be right now. So at this point in time, I’m working towards that goddess status.
With my Instagram and with my presence on social media, I think that if I can inspire others a little bit in the way that these women have inspired in me, I’ve done my job. I want to show you that you’re beautiful. You’ve got to believe that and move through the world with that in mind because that’s a really powerful feeling.
LJ: What advice would you give to women to build or maintain a positive body image?
S: Do your favorite thing, wear your favorite things, listen to your favorite music, pick everything about yourself that you love and tell yourself what those things are. You don’t need someone else to tell you what you like about yourself. I think the more that you don’t care what other people think, it’s so funny and cliché to say, but the more that you don’t care, the more that other people think you’re fucking great.
I think that as women in the world in 2016, coming together and doing things like this and even telling each other that we admire each other is so powerful and helpful because we have enough adversity to deal with being women. I think that helping each other out and telling each other, hey I think you’re so beautiful, is really important.
This interview has been edited and condensed.